English Premiership

Pellegrini shifts sights to Champions League

Manuel Pellegrini (AFP)
Manuel Pellegrini (AFP)

Norwich - Manuel Pellegrini urged his Manchester City players to re-focus on the Champions League following their disappointing 0-0 draw against Premier League strugglers Norwich City at Carrow Road.

Pellegrini's men were frustrated by a resolute Norwich side battling to retain their top-flight status and were left nine points adrift of leaders Leicester City, who host Rafael Benitez's Newcastle United on Monday.

Pellegrini refused to rule his side out of the title race, but said that Tuesday's Champions League last 16 second-leg clash with Dynamo Kiev at the Etihad Stadium, in which City lead 3-1, is now the immediate priority.

"Every time you drop points in the Premier League it becomes more difficult," the Chilean said after Saturday's encounter.

"But it will not change my mind. We think we can do it, but the most important thing now is to focus on the Champions League game that we play on Tuesday night to try and qualify for the next stage.

"After that we have to play against Manchester United on Sunday and we try to win again the three points. At the end of the season we see how many points we have."

A concern for City has been the recent form of Spanish playmaker David Silva.

Against Norwich, only Sergio Aguero posed a genuine goal threat, with Wilfried Bony, Jesus Navas and Silva all unable to to make significant attacking contributions.

Silva, 30, has been a creative force for City in the last few seasons, but he has rarely met his own exacting standards in the current campaign.

"He is playing with some problem in his ankle, but not a problem that does not allow him to play," Pellegrini said.

"He is not 100 percent comfortable, but I think today (Saturday) he tried in different ways. I think that Aguero also tried. All of our players tried, but we just couldn't do it."

Pellegrini added: "We are always talking with David and the doctor. He wants to play. I don't think it is just the problem of David that we don't create the space today.

"We have wingers who must win the one-on-ones and we have the forwards that must try to create more space. When you cannot win, it is the problem of the team and not one person."

Norwich manager Alex Neil was pleased with the point, but admits that he still has a huge fight on his hands to avoid the drop.

Norwich remain in the relegation zone with eight games remaining, but they trail fourth-bottom Sunderland on goal difference alone, albeit having played a game more.

Relegation rivals Newcastle visit Leicester on Monday, but Neil does not believe that the arrival of Benitez at St James' Park will have an impact on Norwich's fate.

"It does not make any difference," Neil said. "If they don't win games then their situation remains the same. It is about us. Newcastle are still to come here and Rafa Benitez isn't going to win the game for them.

"It's the players that are going to win the game. So it really depends on how they respond and if they start picking up points or not."

He added: "I did not need that performance (against Manchester City) to strengthen my belief. I think what it will do, it will help the squad and I think it will help the fans and everybody connected with Norwich.

"They can see the amount of effort that the players are putting in to try and stay in this league. I don't think that can be questioned and I think the fans responded to that.

"When the players got fatigued as the game wore on, I think the players needed them. They were more vocal and the players responded the best they could."

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